Significance of title
Is there more than one meaning to the title in the context of the story?
  • searching for something thats lost - earrings
  • begging for mercy, forgiveness - the rich lady should be ideally but would never do that
  • maid - cleaning the floor
  • Social issues
  • drama
Main Characters
  • Carol Lang - everything about her life is known as the narrator is her son, strong sense of self-pride and self respect, meticulous, independent
  • her son - narrator of the story, voices his opinions strongly, initially he sees things in black and white (immature), ashamed and embarrassed about his mother's profession, studies law, suspicious of the 'theft'
  • rich lady - character portrayed through the setting and through the points of view of others, careless, arrogant, egoistic, quite fake
Theme (s)
  • dignity of working class women,
  • class conflict - morality of the rich and the poor
  • understanding of the values and beliefs which has no price to it
  • relationship between the mother and son - complexity of their relationship
  • rich lady's house
  • paintings which were andrew wyeth reproductions - not the real thing, fake
  • popular novels and psychology books
  • erotica hidden behind them - pretence
  • shows of the wealth of the upper middle class which has pretentions of being cultured and civilized but its all fake and hollow
  • reflects the personality of the owner of the house, quick to accuse but uncivilized as she didnt give carol a chance to give her point of view
  • rich lady's ego vs mothers dignity which is conveyed through the son (class conflict) - external conflict
  • difference in the value system and the morals of the rich and the poor
  • conflict in the point of the view of the son and the mother - external conflict
  • internal conflict - the son hates the fact that he has to help his mother clean the house but feels sorry for her
Narrative point of view
  • son - first person narrative
  • the story is biased towards the mother hence we dont get know much about the rich lady
  • also the rich lady's voice is not heard at all in the story thus the author is manipulating the reader
  • there is a change in the way he sees his mother - the moment of realization - and then he starts empathizing with his mother
  • informal, colloquial language - 'old man', 'shot through'
  • because of the sons age
Narrative Structure
  • reflective story where he talks about his formative years
  • follows a chronological order - sequence of events
  • the rich lady and the son are supposed to be 'educated' but its the mother who teaches both of them a lesson
Stylistic devices
  • use of symbolism - the fact that she's a cleaner and she wants to keep a 'clean' reputation
  • the money in the envelope - supposed to buy the mother because its a way of bribing her to move on
  • earrings - cheap and tacky just like the rich lady's attitude
(letters, diaries, notes etc)
  • theres a note for the mother with money in it
  • the contents are not revealed but the reader knows that the rich lady is firing her
  • development of the son - change in point of view of his mother
  • moment of realization - throws the earrings in the cat litter because he's disgusted by the lady's behaviour, but when he sees that his mother refuses to let anyone upset her values he realizes that he needs to be more mature
  • the mother symbolizes honesty and integrity
Socio-economic issues
  • class conflict and how the upper classes dominate over the lower classes
  • frustration of being treated unfairly
Thinking points
  • Focus on characterisation for this story
  • Why does the mother want to ‘clean that flat within an inch of its life’?
  • Why does the author go to such lengths to describe the flat, through the eyes of the narrator?